A world in which everyone benefits
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
WHATEVER the outcome of the G8 meeting today, we know that the struggle
against the effects of poverty must continue for many years to come. This was
at the heart of the campaigners' message: that global justice needs to be built
into the way the world does business. As the organisers of Live 8 said
repeatedly, aid is not enough. And, as the 225,000 demonstrators in Edinburgh
on Saturday showed, people in this country are prepared to go further than
simply filling a Christian Aid envelope once a year. Perhaps this will prove to
have been the week when politicians got the message and started acting on it.
the task, though, will be a long one.
In the mean time, President Bush's statement last weekend that he would not
take any action that was to the detriment of his country was commendably honest
and profoundly depressing. He is, of course, the President of the United
States, and not, say, of Ghana, Angola, or Mozambique. Nevertheless, he seemed
to take no account of the widespread damage caused by recent US administrations
in those and other countries overseas, where often democratically elected
governments were overthrown with US assistance. Nor, indeed, did he take
account of the millions of dollars that the United States gives in aid, derived
both from government funds and charitable donations. Neither fits the
isolationist, self-preserving image that Mr Bush projected.
It is clear that the notion has yet to take hold that creating a juster,
fairer, cleaner world benefits everyone, including Americans. Some seem to look
no further than the fact that there will be an inevitable financial cost to
people in the richer nations. Giving money away means that they have less to
spend on themselves; Western politicians become nervous when they think their
electorates might catch on to this. But, in the first place, it isn't all their
money: developed nations are wealthy, in part, because they set a low price for
raw materials bought from poorer nations, and accept a low price for
manufactured goods made in countries with cheap labour.
In the second place, riches cannot be measured merely in monetary terms. Dr
Williams spoke at the weekend about the way the world is shrinking through
faster communication and travel. "This is a world where, literally and
metaphorically, infection travels faster than ever. Pandemics, poverty,
ecological degradation are everyone's business, and there is no escape pod
reserved for those who are comfortable and prosperous just at the moment.
Suddenly the question 'Who is my neighbour?' has a very clear answer: my
neighbour is the suffering stranger in Africa or South-East Asia. My life is as
much bound up with theirs as with the lives of people who happen to be more
like me." The riches of living at peace with our neighbours are of infinitely
more value than anything material that we have gathered and stored in our